Renowned snake researcher dies after being bitten by a rattlesnake

An elderly well-known snake enthusiast died after being bitten by a rattlesnake in West Virginia last week, his family said.

William H. “Marty” Martin, 80, was killed August 3 after being bitten by a wooden rattle on his property in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, according to his wife Renee Martin.

Despite his age, Martin regularly made the arduous hike up the surrounding mountains to document snake populations in remote locations, according to Joe Villari, manager of Bull Run Mountains Preserve in northern Virginia.

“He was in his 80s and it was hard to keep up with him,” said Villari, who accompanies Martin on his biannual field trips.

According to John Sealy, a rattlesnake researcher from Stokesdale, North Carolina, Martin was perhaps the nation’s foremost expert on rattlesnakes – a species notoriously difficult to find – which he had studied since childhood.

“They’re extremely secretive animals,” Sealy said.

Snake bites are rarely fatal. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that they are responsible for about five deaths annually in the United States.

Dan Keyler, a professor of toxicology at the University of Minnesota and an expert on snakebites, said a second snakebite can be more deadly than a first for some people.

Rattlesnakes, in particular, can be more dangerous once they reach a size that allows them to inject more venom, and a person’s age affects their susceptibility, he said.

Martin had been bitten before in his career but recovered.

Villari said that wooden rattles tend to be docile, avoid human contact, and often won’t bite even if accidentally stepped on.

“They save their venom for their prey,” he said.

With postal wires Renowned snake researcher dies after being bitten by a rattlesnake


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